Gulch Oakland Show Screwup

A recap of how Gulch, Tiny World, and others screwed up one of the first post-covid shows in Oakland. Or a story of bad decision making.

The Show

At the end of June 2021 Tiny World (aka tinyworldofficial), which is a promotional group that puts on shows and sells merchandise, decided to put on a hardcore punk show in West Oakland. The bands playing the show were Dead City (Los Angeles), Gulch (Santa Cruz), Scowl (Santa Cruz), Barrage (Los Angeles), Spy (Bay Area)‚Äč, N8noface (Los Angeles).

The show was going to be outdoors at the West Oakland tubes, a skate location where shows have happened in the past. This sounded pretty great and I would have went if I didn't have a birthday party to go to already. After a year and a half of no shows, everyone in the Bay Area was ready to start going to live music events, especially ones that were outdoors (as covid was not actually over).

Unfortunately, security or someone from the tubes told the organizers of the show that the show cannot happen at the tubes. The tubes are no longer hosting shows at all. From my understanding, the organizers of the show learned about this a few hours before the show. Whoops!

So the venue fell through, but there were other places in the Bay Area that might have been able to host a show. In fact, the organizers of the show found a location not far from the tubes in West Oakland and quickly made an announcement on social media declaring the new location of the show. Sweet!

The problem was that this new location is also an encampment for a lot of unhoused folks. ("Homeless" is a less accurate term. Someone might not have a house and still have a home.) The organizers claimed to have talked to some of the folks who live in this location and got an OK from them to have a show there, but after the show took place a lot of the people who live there said they had no idea there was going to be a show there and that no one talked to them.

It's a pretty crummy idea to go into a place where a bunch of societies most marginalized people are living and put on a loud, violent punk show. (I love loud, violent punk shows.) Some of the punks in the crowd decided to start setting giant bonfires. Doing that at an encampment whose citizens have had to deal with arson in the past is not great.

The cars of a few people who live at the encampment were burned. Other people had their trailer homes covered with graffiti.

Basically, a bunch of out of town bands came into West Oakland, put on a show that was attended by mostly white punk rockers, and trashed the place and possessions of people who live there. There's a long history of racism and a more recent history of gentrification in West Oakland, and unfortunately this kind of behavior by the punks fits right into that history.

Knowingly or unknowingly, a lot of mistakes were made that night. The punks messed this one up.

The Aftermath

We all make mistakes though. The organizers and most of the bands were from out of town and might not have been very familiar with West Oakland and the location where the show took place. I don't know. The show did look super fun.

The real screwup came the next day. A lot of punks in the Bay Area do outreach work with the unhoused population of Oakland, so news of fires and vandalism spread pretty quickly. A few Instagram posts calling out the organizers of the show got shared a bunch. There was a pretty quick online backlash against those who put on the show and those who went to the show and didn't realize that the things they were doing could be harmful to the people who live in that area. Some attendees of the show deleted videos/photos of themselves at the show.

Most of the online criticism was asking for two things. 1) For those who organized and attended the show to admit they screwed up and 2) for them to give back to the community that they affected by doing some volunteer work or maybe donating some money or putting on a benefit show. These are both very reasonable requests.

I can't imagine how anyone would disagree that putting on a show where a bunch of scary looking, mostly white, punks come in to an unhoused encampment, violently mosh, light big bon fires, torch cars, and graffiti property is a good idea. Do that shit in a backyard or a bunkhouse or a venue or a skate park or somewhere else.

As for the second point, punks are involved in volunteer work and put on benefit shows all the time. It would be pretty easy for the bands to post an apology on their Instagrams encouraging their fans to do some outreach volunteering or donate some money to an organization that helps unhoused folks. And putting on a benefit show is a great idea as it both raises money and allows the punks to be punks.

As simple as these two things would have been, it seems to me like Tiny World, Dead City, Gulch, and the other bands involved in this show refused to admit they did anything wrong. Instead they deleted instagram comments trying to call them out on their behavior. They reacted with total denial.

Making mistakes is human. Trying to fix those mistakes is what decent people do. By refusing to own their mistakes these bands and organizations are now on my shitlist. I have no interest listening to their music or going to their shows. If you're a shitty person, I don't want you in my scene or my community.

If you are interesting in helping out underserved and marginalized individuals in Oakland, think about volunteering with or donating to Oakland's Punks with Lunches. They do a lot of good work, including working in the West Oakland encampment where this show happened. If you don't live in Oakland, there are probably other groups who do work helping out underserved communities. If nothing else, you can go talk to unhoused folks yourself. Often they can use simple things like tampons and clean socks, that anyone can donate.